It’s 3 a.m. on a Monday morning. I’ve just fallen into a deep sleep and begin dreaming about things guys dream of; like winning the lottery, becoming a rock star, or the Dallas Cowboys winning consistently in the playoffs. My alarm is set to go off in two hours to get ready for work. All of a sudden, I hear a distinct, familiar sound waking me from my dream.

The sound becomes more consistent, and before too long, I am sitting straight up in bed, peering over to the far side of my bedroom. I rub my eyes, look over to Olivia’s crib, and she is standing and staring right back at me, crying as loud as can be. Beside me lies my wife, Lynda, snoring and not hearing a peep. I get out of bed, grab Olivia, change her diaper, make her a bottle and lay her back down, hoping she falls asleep. She doesn’t. She wants to come to bed with us, and won’t stop crying until she gets her way.

Frustrated, I grab Olivia, bring her back to bed, and lay her in between Lynda and myself. She stretches out and falls asleep, horizontally, and I am pushed to the edge of the bed and am not able to regain my comfort. I toss and turn for a while, then fall asleep for what seems like five minutes when the alarm goes off. Time to wake up, tip-toe around the room to get ready for work, while trying to be quiet so as not to wake up Olivia and Lynda. I kiss them on the forehead and then make my way to the other side of the house to kiss Leyla and Brisia on the head as I leave for work.

This is how I start every day. I am fortunate to have three daughters, Olivia, 1, Brisia, 9, and Leyla, 7. My wife, Lynda, is a stay-at-home mom who is taking full-time online classes to become a speech pathologist. In a house full of females, I am the alpha male – actually, the only male. These four ladies depend on me to provide for them, be strong for them, and most importantly, be a good role model for them.

I usually get home from work around 5 p.m., and am greeted at the door with hugs from my daughters and an exasperated look on my wife’s face. She is exhausted, and with good reason. During the day, she has to get the girls up, make breakfast, help get them ready for school, take them to school, come back home, do laundry, clean the kitchen, tidy up the house, watch her class lectures online, do homework, pick up the girls from school and help them do their homework, make dinner – and during all of this – watch an ornery one-year-old who gets into EVERYTHING. When I get home, she is basically passing along all her responsibilities to me, so she can rest.

I ask the older girls how their day in school went, as Olivia lays in my lap clapping her hands constantly as to get my full attention. Brisia tells me about a boy who has a crush on her and keeps passing her notes in class. Leyla tells me what she ate for lunch and that she doesn’t like the cafeteria food. I ask the girls if they have finished their chores, then we help their mom set the table for dinner. After eating, we head to basketball practice for the girls, as I coach their very talented travel team. Once at the gym, I usually grab Olivia and attach her to a harness that allows me to carry her in front while still coaching the girls. Lynda usually does homework during our practice times. After practice, we head home where the girls shower and get ready for bed. Lynda and I go into their rooms to read to them before they fall asleep. Exhausted from the days’ activities, Lynda and I, along with Olivia, head to bed to prepare for the same routine tomorrow.

Growing up, I never had that typical “father figure.” My mom, who was married four times, worked nonstop to provide for my younger brother, my younger sister and me. My mom was my father figure, because my stepdads never lived up to the billing and my biological father was never in the picture. She was the one who instilled life skills in me, and along with the help of my high school basketball coach, taught me how to be a man. It just took me a long time to incorporate this into my life.

As a young adult, I thought I had it all figured out. I attended college at New Mexico State University and was well on my way to becoming a heralded sports writer. Then, I got into some trouble, was arrested a few times because of dumb mistakes, spent some time behind bars and basically had to start over. I met Lynda in 2011 and we began dating. She had two young girls at the time, Brisia, a two-year old, and Leyla, a newborn. The girls’ biological father had been deported to Mexico and then committed suicide, leaving Lynda hopeless as she tried to raise two young children. I had never dated someone with kids before, and honestly, didn’t know how to act around her kids. It was a tumultuous relationship at first, as I never understood why I was second to her kids. I was selfish, immature, and still getting into trouble off and on.

It was around 2014 when I finally decided it was time to grow up and be a father to these girls. My reason was simple – provide for them what I didn’t have growing up; however, I didn’t know exactly “how” to be a father. I started reminiscing about how it was when I grew up, how my mom was always at work and how I had to depend on a coach or friends to show me how to play sports. My mom made sure I always made it to practice though, and she never missed any of my games. But that’s just it: if I would have had a father figure show me how to properly throw a football, or shoot a basketball, or change a tire, then maybe I would have been a better influence to my kids early on. After realizing what I missed as a child without a permanent father, I quickly transformed myself into the father I thought I wanted to have as a kid, and it has worked out well. My kids are my world now and I constantly teach them what I had to learn by myself, including how to change a tire or the oil in a car, how to operate the lawn mower, rules of sports, etc. I help with their homework when needed, and sometimes when they already know the answer, they ask me anyways because they enjoy the input I have and the time spent together.

It took me six years to finally propose to Lynda and ask her hand in marriage, and a year later, I legally adopted Brisia and Leyla as my own. We were blessed with Olivia in 2017, and now, are as strong a family as there is out there.

Being a father – a good father – requires patience, love and understanding. It also requires being a good leader, as one day your kids will make life decisions based upon how they were raised. It involves instilling good morals in your children, and teaching them that they will make mistakes in their lives, but they can learn from them and move on. It involves disciplining your children when they do wrong, and correcting them when they may mistakes. Some days you are your kids’ best friend; other days they despise you because they didn’t get their way. It’s a frustrating and exhausting experience sometimes, but in the end, it’s the most rewarding experience I have ever had. My mother did a fantastic job raising me, and although I made some mistakes along the way, I credit her for molding me into the father I am today. I am by no means a perfect father – I still make many, many mistakes. I can say this though… Even with the mistakes and bad decisions I have made over time, being a father saved my life. It helped me grow into the man I am today, and according to my daughters, I am the best daddy ever – I am Superman.

Bio: Lance Crenshaw is a 1999 graduate of Artesia High School. He currently resides in Hobbs and works for an oilfield environmental company as a project manager. He also donates time to coaching his daughters’ sports teams, including basketball, softball, volleyball and soccer.